As you peruse this review, I am experiencing reader’s grief, although for the best of reasons, because I must accept that the book had to end. We’ve all been there, but this was a particularly tough one for me.
In full disclosure, I decided to read The Disappeared Girl because I’ve met the author, Martin J. Smith. I love reading books by people I’ve met because it adds a different depth to have spent time talking to the person who slaved over those pages for months or years.
I had the good fortune to meet Martin J. Smith last summer when I was a participant in one of his workshops at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. I was sure his crime novel would be good because they attract an extraordinary faculty – Karen Joy Fowler, Mark Childress and Amy Tan to name but a few – and I was not disappointed. Plus he was a heck of a nice guy who’d made me feel at ease from the first day of the workshop, that meant a lot to me.
The Disappeared Girl is a perfect mix of a fast paced mystery mixed in with a good dose of history and sprinkled throughout with deep reflection on family relations. I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about families and the myriad of structures they form – blood relations, adoptions, fostering, chosen families, blended families, and so on – and so the timing was in line with my own considerations making Smith’s writing that much more meaningful.
His writing also returned my thoughts to books I’d read at least 20 years ago about the Dirty War in Argentina when Smith deftly interweaves aspects of that history throughout the story. He pieced all of the elements together in this thriller in ways that continually left me blurting out the old cliché of “wow, I didn’t see that coming,” which, to me, is what shifts a book from interesting to memorable.
To top it all off, the writing is beautiful. There are funny moments and heartbreaking scenes and clever quips all spread throughout in equal measure. And the best news yet is that The Disappeared Girl is actually the fourth in a series by Smith.
All of the books revolve around the main character, Jim Christensen, who is a psychologist with an expertise in memory research. This last book, The Disappeared Girl, brings in the story of Christensen’s own family and pulls together a wild and wonderfully mysterious journey from the opening chapter through to the closing words.
I sincerely hope that by the time I catch up on the first three books (Time Release, Shadow Image and Straw Men) and reread the fourth, that a new fifth book will be at least in the works, if not actually in print, to continue this wonderful series. If you like a smart thriller, this book is for you.